Coping with Halloween Grief: Surviving the Spooky Season

By Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT

Updated: October 9, 2023

Posted: October 9, 2023

For many of us, the fall season carries the heavy symbolism of death and endings. The leaves change and fall, mirroring the sense of loss that already weighs on our hearts. It's a time when grief can become almost tangible, mingling with the very air we breathe. Yet, in recognizing this, we also find a pathway to mindful living, an opportunity to address our grief rather than allowing it to silently envelop us.

Halloween. A time of spooky fun, costumes, and endless amounts of candy. But for when you are bereft, the holiday is shadowed by the weight of grief. The haunting images and symbols, perhaps even the time of year, can make you feel as though you're treading through an emotional minefield.

You're not alone; in fact, it was the death of my uncle by suicide during this very season that opened my eyes to the complex layers of emotion that can accompany fall and its holidays. It taught me that the weight of grief can make even the most joyful traditions feel burdensome. But it also showed me that mindful approaches can offer solace, even when the season itself seems to echo our loss. 

As challenging as this time may be, it's crucial to remember the self-care practices that have already been supporting you on your grief journey. Holidays and anniversaries often intensify our feelings, making it even harder to do what we know is good for us. This is normal. Keep doing what's been working, but also recognize that this season may require a little extra. In addition to your usual coping strategies, here are some targeted mindful responses for specific issues you may face this Halloween.

Intrusive Halloween Imagery

You can't escape it—stores are decked out in Halloween decor that can feel incredibly triggering. From playful skeletons to haunting ghosts and many costumes I won't mention, what's festive for others might make you uneasy.

Mindful Response: Take a deep breath to ground yourself. Recognize that these triggers can't harm you; they're just reminders of your pain. If you feel up to it, jot down what you're feeling in a journal. Maybe even write down words of comfort that you can extend to yourself the next time this occurs. Consider this act a small but crucial part of your ongoing grief work, and an act of self-compassion.

You Are Already Scared Enough

The last thing you need right now is more fear or suspense from spooky movies or haunted houses. Your daily life might already feel like a psychological thriller without a clear end. I want you to know that the intensity of grief does soften, and that you will learn how to live with loss. But for now - and always - give yourself a break. 

Mindful Response: Listen to yourself. If you need to bow out of certain activities to protect your emotional health, do so without guilt. Perhaps use this time to engage in activities that nourish you, whether it's reading, painting, or spending time with loved ones who understand your need for a quieter holiday.

Memories of Loved Ones

The pang of nostalgia hits you out of nowhere: the thought of past Halloweens spent with your child, sibling, or parent. These memories can be both precious and painful, making it tough to know how to honor them without sinking into sorrow. 

Mindful Response: Consider adopting traditions that are rooted in remembering the departed. Create an altar or light a candle in their memory. Take inspiration from Día de Muertos or All Souls Day to commemorate them in a meaningful way. Of course you do not have to do any of these - you just have to find your way to honor your feelings and lean into the love that remains.

The Change of Season

Autumn brings its own set of triggers—leaves changing, shorter days, and cooler nights. For those of us who associate fall with a personal loss, even the smell of the season can be heartbreaking.  It's not just about Halloween; this day marks the kickoff of a whole season of holidays that can stir up complex emotions. Thanksgiving grief is just around the corner, making it feel as if you're entering an emotional gauntlet that will last through the New Year

Mindful Response: Instead of facing the season alone, reach out. Talk to friends who are empathetic, or seek professional guidance. Your grief is valid, and it's okay to ask for help. I am here to help you through. Just book a private session or join me in my online grief support group called Awaken.

If you're looking for a compassionate space to share your experiences, the Awaken grief support group is hosting a special meeting on Tuesday, October 31, 2023, at 7 PM. You're not alone, and support is available. Join us at meditationforgrief.com.

Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT

About the author

Heather Stang, M.A. is the author of Mindfulness & Grief and the guided journal, From Grief To Peace. She is the creator of the Mindfulness & Grief System that is featured in the Handbook of Grief Therapies (2023) and is the founder of Awaken, a mindfulness-based online grief support group. Heather also hosts the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, and offers mindfulness-based grief support online through her organization, the Mindfulness & Grief Institute. She holds a Masters degree in Thanatology (Death, Dying, and Bereavement) from Hood College in Maryland, and is a certified Yoga Therapist. She currently lives in Falling Waters, WV.

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